Governing drug reimbursement policy in Poland: The role of the state, civil society, and the private sector

04 Aug 2017

This article investigates the distribution of power in Poland’s drug reimbursement policy in the early 2000s. We examine competing theoretical expectations suggested by neopluralism, historical institutionalism, corporate domination, and clique theory of the post-communist state, using data from a purposive sample of 109 semi-structured interviews and documentary sources. We have four concrete findings. First, we uncovered rapid growth in budgetary spending on expensive drugs for narrow groups of patients. Second, to achieve these favorable policy outcomes drug companies employed two prevalent methods of lobbying: informal persuasion of key members of local cliques and endorsements expressed by patient organizations acting as seemingly independent “third parties.” Third, medical experts were co-opted by multinational drug companies because they relied on these firms for scientific and financial resources that were crucial for their professional success. Finally, there was one-way social mobility from the state to the pharmaceutical sector, not the “revolving door” pattern familiar from advanced capitalist countries, with deleterious consequences for state capacity. Overall, the data best supported a combination of corporate domination and clique theory: drug reimbursement in Poland was dominated by Western multinationals in collaboration with domestically based cliques.